Restaurants & Bars

Café Capriccio, Albany report

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Café Capriccio, Albany report

willow | Jan 13, 2006 07:13 PM

Having been rated best restaurant of 2005 by Metroland, and recalling excellent meals there years ago, I had high hopes for a fine dining experience. Not to be.

I’m a woman and I went with a male dining companion on a Thursday eve. We were nicely greeted and our coats were taken. We were seated in the main dining room (bright lights) at a booth adjoining a very loud business four-top, though most of the rest of the room was vacant. Perusing the menus it seemed unbearable to contemplate enjoying a romantic dinner a deux with (boring) business dealings going on at high decibel levels one foot from my head. I asked the waiter if there was another table available. He showed me a booth at the bar. Our neighbors made disparaging remarks about their being too loud as dining companion left the room. After that, and for the rest of the evening, it was unclear who our waiter was. But the bar was dimmer and quieter. We were served some regular Italian bread with a dish of some pesto-type thing to put on it. Basil is not in season in upstate NY, and it was dry. I would have been happier with some evoo or even butter.

We were upsold one of the most expensive pinot noirs (Italian pinot nere), but it was good. Went for the full dinner– antipasto, pasta, entree and dessert. We chose the Grilled Artichokes, Sopressata, Roasted Peppers, Greens, Olives from the regular menu and a special of seafood, including ceviche. I recalled the scrumptious artichokes and vegetables displayed in Roma trattorias. This was not that. The grilled baby artichokes, etc. was mediocre – all cold and apparently old – sitting on a mound of (undressed) mesclun. Why the mesclun? Unimpressive and not high on the deliciousness scale. For example, the soprasatta seemed no different from deli salami as it was sliced thin. The special was good and tasty – tuna ceviche, scallops cooked in saffron, green mussels and calimari.

Next was the pasta. Brought on at a fine pace. We poured our own wine. Who was/is our waiter?? Dining companion ordered the Chingale Fiorentina: Ragu of Wild Boar, served with wide flat noodle and very delectable sauce. This seemed promising. I ordered the squid in its own ink – Calamari Neri, Sepia, Ink Sauce – and while not molto yummy, was good and different.

Happily contemplating our entrees of cassoulet (I was eager for at last a REAL good version) and osso buco. The cassoulet came out in a skillet on a potholder-type of material which it needed because it was smoldering hot. It appeared that the kitchen had put it under the broiler and forgot about it the last ½ hour. It was horribly overcooked. The osso buco was a fine rendition. Tender and tasty. No waiter appeared to ask us how our meal was. We poured our own wine. We shared the osso buco and could barely cut off a piece of duck from the dry overcooked leg that sat in the middle of the cassoulet. The rest of it was drenched in dry breadcrumbs that I didn’t want to dig for a bean. Finally when I was able to get someone’s attention I said that the cassoulet was overcooked and they took it away, saying nothing. No apologies, except deducted from check. Gelato and espresso for dessert. Chose the bourbon/vanilla (versus smoked almond). Check w/ tip was $173. We tipped well. We got our own coats.

I thought: that was a rip-off. Now I don’t mind spending that much for a meal, but it should be high on the deliciousness scale, in the realm of thinking either “that was very good” or better “life is wonderful.” Instead I thought: that was disappointing for the cost, and we should have gone to River Street Café. I’ve had a much better meal and been happier at Union Square Café in NYC for a lower cost. Okay, my town is not a great restaurant town. But still.

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